Bipartisanship Compromises Our Future
Those on TV who are paid to tell us what we ought to think have told us that Americans want politicians to exhibit "cooperation and bipartisanship."
Well, in the past 10 days we got that cooperation in a bill to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut and extend unemployment benefits. It was easy.
Everyone agreed to borrow more money from China and raise the deficit. It was stereotypical Washington celebrating Presidents' Day with its Mandarin Master Card.
Now, there was the usual "smoke and mirrors" promising money would be raised to cover the cost. It was agreed that several years from now the government would sell communications spectrum to cellphone companies. In the meantime, China or the Federal Reserve printing press would provide the funds. And, with our dollars, China might even buy the spectrum.
Congressional Republican and Democratic leaders actually like to agree on such things, because neither has to take responsibility for the agreement.
Our Constitution sets up a complex and limited government. It was not designed to be a model of efficiency and cooperation. If the Founding Fathers had wanted to create an efficient government, they would simply have made George Washington a king.
Ours is a government of divided powers with three branches. One branch, the Congress, is itself even divided into two more branches. The reason why conservatives do not want the government to do much is that it does not do anything efficiently. And that is by design, for which we are thankful.
But this year, the media consensus was that the Republican message of deficit reduction was losing out to the Democratic message of middle-class payroll subsidy. So in the midst of an important debate as to whether to expand federal spending with new taxes or shrink government with fewer taxes and less spending, the politicians put aside their differences to give deference to something on which both sides could agree: polling data.
The people actually want a large federal government. They want an Army large enough to destroy Iran while having enough muscle in reserve to defend Taiwan and crush the Taliban. They want money for the public education of the mentally challenged and prescription drugs for Medicare.
From building rail to providing health care for the poor, there is little that the federal government does that lacks an enthusiastic constituency. Even Newt Gingrich alluded to the problem when he told America that something as apparently wasteful as sugar subsidies had so much support that it could not be cut from the budget.
Yet no one wants to pay for what they get. When the federal government announced a bipartisan prescription drug program for Medicare, there was no tax increase or spending reduction to pay for it. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, supported by both parties, were fought with borrowed money. Then, with the national debt all too high, the Obama administration doubled that debt with a bailout and stimulus plan.
A ray of light did enter the "tunnel of debt" when the tea party came along. They won the midterm election for the Republicans with a promise to lower spending and repeal a health care bill that threatened make the deficit of today look like a firecracker compared with the deficit of tomorrow, a hydrogen bomb.
Tea party Republicans were then criticized for causing "gridlock" when the only thing they did was to cauterize the fiscal bloodletting that characterized the federal budget. Republicans stopped Democrats from more social spending. Democrats stopped Republicans from more tax cuts. It was ugly, but it was what the Founding Fathers expected, a government so divided that its power was held in check.
Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers did not know about the modern political reality of polling and pandering. With the new Payroll Tax Bill, Democrats got more social spending on unemployment compensation and less payroll withholding. Republicans avoided higher income taxes to pay for the Democratic initiative. The people even got the same level of government spending with fewer taxes. Democrats won. Republicans won. The people won. Even the Chinese got more American debt from which to profit.
The only ones who lost were our grandchildren, who will have to pay for this bipartisanship. They were not polled, but their future was compromised.
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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